Skip to main content

tv   American Artifacts Willard Hotel  CSPAN  December 23, 2017 9:35am-10:04am EST

9:35 am
party and he liked a drink or two. as long as you did not talk about communism you could not have asked for a more fun guy to be with, but he was serious about that and he was someone who do not take advice very well. and he consequently said things, even did things, that hurt the cause of anti-communism. announcer: sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. announcer: each week, american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places to learn about american history. located in the heart of washington dc the willard hotel , has been a witness to history for 200 years. guests have included abraham lincoln, mark twain, world war ii soldiers and at the first japanese delegation to the united states in 1860.
9:36 am
>> welcome to the willard. it is located two blocks away from the white house. marie: hello, welcome. the willard is covalently located in the city, near iconic , and memorials on the national mall. we are very fortunate to have this location. we give our thanks to captain john taylor, who was reputed to be one of virginia's wealthiest plantation owners. he was a friend and supporter of general washington. captain taylor acquired the land avenue4 pennsylvania in 1816.
9:37 am
he built the two-story dwelling. you might wonder if that was a good investment for him. washington dc at the time was not really a city, more of a town. on a rainy day, some avenues where rivers of mud and felt, and when it was dry debris from construction building the president's mansion was everywhere. tourists and people coming to the city found hotel accommodations very sparse, and if you did find it was communal living. jim: hello, i am the bartender at the round robin bar at the historic willard hotel. as washington dc grew as the capital of the united states, so did the willard hotel. everything happened within 10 blocks of the white house. in fact, if you walked out the front door, exactly one mile
9:38 am
from here is the capital. just on the other side is the treasury building and the white house. so you can understand how people build their homes, the social, economic and political center of washington became this corner, 14th and pennsylvania avenue. benjamin taylor, the son of john taylor, realized that to keep pace with what was going on in other cities in the u.s. and to bring the accommodations and the luxuries and modernization that was going on in the hotel business to washington, he needed to bring somebody into washington to run the hotel. between the years of 1818 and 1847, there were several different managers. eight attached a new name to the hotel. in 1847, henry willard became the manager. from that time forward, the willard family played a n important and prominent role
9:39 am
for the next 100 years. let's talk about henry willard appeared henry willard came from vermont and was a very energetic businessman. he and his brother joseph were on the steamship niagara that ran from troy, new york to new york city on the hudson steamship line. he made it his practice to provide the best service to anybody on the ship. the fiancee of benjamin taylor met henry on one of those trips to new york. she was impressed with his service to everybody and when her fiance mentioned they needed a manager for the willard, she mentioned henry. he applied for the job and in 1847, henry willard moved to washington to manage the hotel. he wanted a grand hotel to run on a grand plan. the city hotel at the time had
9:40 am
100 hotel rooms. it had a beautiful main entrance with a portico. it had a women's entrance that led to a private lounge on the mezzanine level. there was entertainment almost every night of the week. there was a private dining room for the ladies and the gentlemen. as where bathrooms. henry willard decided the hotel would be the finest in the city. reported that one of his routines was to leave the hotel at 3:00 every morning to go to the markets to personally select the produce, fish and meat to be served at that time. >> politicians were not professional politicians at that time. congress did not meet year-round. so people who came to washington had to find places to stay. they often stayed in boarding houses or other people's homes. as well as the early hotels.
9:41 am
in fact, pennsylvania avenue was known as the avenue of america because there were so many hotels along pennsylvania avenue. and the willard family, when they were brought in by the owners of the property to upgrade the status of the property, wanted to bring in all of those things that people had been experiencing in other cities, including in europe and new york. >> henry clay came to washington in 1808. and along with henry clay came barrels of kentucky straight sour mash whiskey, otherwise known as bourbon. the barrels he brought from bourbon county where stamped with bourbon county for tax reasons, that is how the name evolved for bourbon. and he discovered that those in washington, washingtonians, were drinking mint juleps with rum or brandy. he was appalled and decided to show people the proper way to make a southern style mint julep. he is to relish in showing
9:42 am
people how to make them. southern style, with kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. and we continue to practice that legacy here, using henry clay's original recipe. in fact, henry clay traditionally, in the beginning of every new session of congress, would bring a barrel of bourbon and he would invite on a bipartisan basis members of congress from both sides of the aisle to join him in toasting the new legislative session. that tradition continues to this day. recently we had a group of distillers from bourbon county in kentucky come here and with the assistance of the delegation of senators and congressmen from kentucky, honor the senator and that legacy that was started in the early 1800s here at the willard hotel. senator henry clay was known as a great compromiser. what better way to compromise after a day of legislative
9:43 am
battling on capitol hill, then to retire to the bar at the willard hotel and have a mint julep? he was known as the great compromiser. senator john c. calhoun was known as the great antagonize her, and daniel webster was the great orator. these gentlemen set the stage for the civil war in the 1860's. the willard hotel was known as a place where people from both sides of the aisle could get together in a bipartisan manner and discuss after a busy day the affairs of the day and have to move forward into the future. marie: now we are in peacock alley, the name coming from new york city. at the time, wonderful ladies of society would go down the hallway connecting the two hotels and people who came to watch called them peacocks. when the manager from the waldorf astoria can down to
9:44 am
manage the hotel, he decided that this hallway would be called peacock alley. in 1850's, the city was growing and the willard decided to keep pace. they decided that the two-story dwelling should be united. so the frame of a solid was torn down and new bricks were added. it was painted white and additional stories were added and the interior was enlarged. in 1850's and 1860's, it was a good time for the willard. henry willard backed franklin pierce when he was running for president and when he won, he became the first president to visit the willard hotel. it has hosted many presidents, and since then the hotel was called the residence of presidents. in addition to having congressmen and businessmen stay at the hotel, the willard tried to attract foreign dignitaries, especially the japanese
9:45 am
delegation. the japanese had never left their homeland and were coming to the united states to visit with president buchanan as a -- just signed the treaty of it amnesty and commerce. at the time, there was no blair house to house foreign dignitaries, so that task fell to the willard. congress a prorated $50,000 for the willard to refurbish and redecorate to accommodate the test -- the guests. the rooms where read carpeted, there was a pantry built in and an entire floor of 60 rooms was given to the delegation. the japanese into through the ladies entrance on 14th street and the security was tight to take care of any way word, what they called -- of the time. the japanese found our customs of bathing in private, even our clothing, very foreign mother they enjoyed it. the delegation was composed of three samurai investors --
9:46 am
ambassadors and an entourage. at the close of the 1860's, the willard's had achieved their goal. they had attracted congressmen, businessmen, statesmen and foreign dignitaries with the success of the japanese delegation. they continue to do this and at the beginning of the 1860's we had found that washington had become a focal point for military and political reasons. we are now in the abraham lincoln suite. it is one of 41 suites in the newer building. abraham lincoln did not stay in this room. the room was named after him because he stayed in the structure that was dated 1860, for 10 days, prior to his election. let's go back to the city in 1860. there was a lot of focus on military and political activity. one historian noted that hotel demand was so great, hotels were
9:47 am
able to raise their rates to four dollars per night. the willard was considered neutral, the northerners would enter from pennsylvania avenue and his southerners from the other entrance. the willard hall was a large spacious room that was able to accommodate the peace convention. it was a last-ditch effort to try to avert the civil war. it was held from february 4 through the 27th in 1861 and it had 131 politicians from 21 states and former president tyler was chair of it. unfortunately, it failed. and the civil war started. the arrival of abraham lincoln to washington was met with excitement. war fever was growing, maryland was sympathetic to the southern cause and emotions were reaching
9:48 am
dangerous levels. there was concern about the safety of abraham lincoln traveling by train from baltimore to washington. it was decided on a saturday morning that abraham lincoln would be removed from the last railcar in the baltimore depot and taken to washington dc before his family and entourage. he was smuggled in disguise through the ladies entrance and taken immediately to a suite in the second floor. when he arrived, a piece of paper from an envelope was delivered with the note, the president is here. it was delivered to the delegates at the peace conference. he stayed for 10 days. and in fact, the first white was not held at the white house, but the willard hotel. when he introduced himself, his wife who was shorter than him,
9:49 am
-- his inauguration brought magnitudes of people to the hotel. the hotel was filled and the willard found itself brought in 475 mattresses. even then, some people were staying in hallways and stairwells. abraham lincoln and his family stayed at the hotel for 10 days, and the first check he wrote as president was to pay for his willard hotel bill. grant also stayed here. appeared ton he check in with his son, he did not have on his uniform and he looked disheveled and nobody recognized him. his room was not very nice. we are lucky, he did not hold a grudge. he came back to the willard multiple times. he liked to smoke a cigar and sit by the fire. a lot of businessmen took the opportunity of president grant sitting in the lobby to ask for favors. and president grant called them lobbyists. originated inist
9:50 am
london. but it was president grant that made it a where that is, in our vocabulary today. ad julia ward howe was also guest at the willard, the sister of the famous lobbyist sam ward and he had recognize -- recommended that she and her husband stay at the willard. it was one of the few hotels that offered stationary to guests and it is on one of these pieces that she penned the word to the battle hymn, the republic. when added to music, it became the national anthem of the northern cause and is today a patriotic song throughout our land. we also had colonel john logan stay with us and he had decided that a day should be dedicated in the memory of all of our fallen soldiers. he chose the day may 30, 1868 and today we recognize that as an annual holiday called memorial day.
9:51 am
and antonio ford was a famous confederate spy, responsible for telling northern troop location information to colonel mosby of the southern cause. she was caught and imprisoned and it was major willard who accompanied her to the prison. he fell in love with her and fought to get her released. she had to sign an oath of allegiance to the northern union and as it turned out, antonia gave up spying. major willard resigned from the army and the two of them married six months later. they had several children and joseph was born in the hotel and had the same love for the hotel as his father did. unfortunately, antonia died seven years later and joseph was inconsolable. >> the willard family experienced tremendous success with the hotel during the civil war and years immediately afterwards. as the country grew, the city grew.
9:52 am
the center of washington, the 10 square blocks around the white up connecticut avenue to the northwest, extending straight north. and the willard family realized that in order to keep pace with the growth of the city, they needed to upgrade the hotel. it did not fall into disrepair, but it did not keep up with the rest of the city, so the second-generation willard family joseph jr., known as the captain in 1901 he inherited , the hotel and decided to get involved in the business. the extent it was almost like bringing his brothers and relatives together to work this property.w he went to new york and brought in a number one architect who had built the waldorf-astoria.
9:53 am
among other hotels along the east coast. and he built the finest hotel that washington had ever seen. that project started in 1901. project they faced the -- phase to the project my they did not want to lose the identity they had built over the last 100 years as ebrahim guns -- as washington's premier residence. in the 1920's, they expanded the willard hotel to over 400 rooms. the structure was the tallest building in washington. there was a fantastic ballroom on the top floor. with the architecture, the top floor had a 30 foot ceiling and was able to accommodate over 1000 people. it was truly a magnificent structure. it was the cornerstone of downtown washington for many years. the willard hotel experienced
9:54 am
tremendous success in the early 1900s. and with the advent of depression in the as the rest of 1920's, the country experienced depression, so did the willard hotel. both financially and structurally. in fact, there was a fire in 1922 in the ballroom and they were unable to restore that area. there was an interesting story during the depression about the veterans from world war i. they marched on washington in the 1930's to ask the government to release their pension money early, rather than waiting until they were much older. they were all caps -- camping by anacostia. and i believe merriweather post,
9:55 am
of the post family of notoriety, heard about their plight. they were all encamped in anacostia. she actually had her chauffeur drive her to the willard hotel, and she walked in and asked to see the manager. and she asked him if she could order 5000 sandwiches and lemonade and ice-tea for the marchers, as well as several thousand packs of cigarettes. eager to accommodate, the manager honored her request and had the items delivered to the marchers. which gives you an idea of how closely aligned the willard family, over the years, over 200 years in fact, were aware of what the needs were of the city and its inhabitants, whether they were affluent or not. and that tradition continued through the 1930's and 1940's.
9:56 am
interesting point of the fact is the fact that the patent office being in close proximity, you , had a lot of people visiting washington with new ideas, innovative ideas, whether it be elevators steam or gas engines, , air-conditioning, you name it. those ideas would come across the willard, either in the lobby or at the round-robin bar. but you could be well aware that being as astute as they were, the family members always had their ear to the ground to find out what the latest was, installing telephoned in the room -- going back to the 1840's, installing hot water and bathrooms on each floor for the guests, and it led to having running water and actual bathroom accommodations in individual rooms.
9:57 am
when the hotel was rebuilt in the latter part of the 19th century. then you have the turn-of-the-century, you have the new willard, as it was known in 1901 on the corner of 14th and pennsylvania. and you had all these modern accommodations that were incorporated that just bedazzled people. when you think about it, people who were visiting washington for visiting thee, and white house and capitol hill and here is this beautiful hotel with a grand lobby and peacock alley and all of these modern conveniences that they were not used to at home. in mid-america or wherever they were visiting from. it is fascinating, talking to people who visited washington for the first time, in the 1940's during world war ii, and different things they experienced. people who had never traveled
9:58 am
before. i remember talking to a gentleman who had stayed at the willard hotel and it was said if he walked into the willard hotel and you had a uniform on, you were given accommodations if they were available. place for allme service members and many people their first experience in , washington was staying at the willard hotel when they were 18 or 19 years old prior to going overseas to fight in world war ii. i had the opportunity to meet many of these people when they did the dedication for the world war ii memorial. it was fascinating listening to them talk about the willard hotel in the 1940's. this one gentleman said it was the middle of the summer and he had never been to a big city or on a train. he is staying at the willard hotel and it was so hot, but the lobby was so cool and
9:59 am
so comfortable, because they had these large vats of ice and large fans blowing cold air. he said he slept on two chairs off of the lobby for three nights because a was so comfortable. and he still remembers that experience. it is those kinds of experiences that you are talking to people about what it was like to attend a high school graduation at the willard hotel in the 1950's. in the grand ballroom at the top floor where the french doors opened up onto a balcony that overlooked the whole city. with the high roof and, what a glorious place it was to visit. and sadly, the willard family decided to get out of the hotel business in the 1940's and they sold their interest to a new york group. the new york group that came in, the able group, but half $1
10:00 am
million into renovating and modernizing the hotel. in the tradition that the willards started many years before, keeping it as an entity, keeping pace with what was going on in the rest of the country. they did a massive renovation of the hotel in terms of style and convenience. and that continued into the 1960's. but washington dc, as an urban area, changed considerably. the whole center of washington had moved. there was very little downtown in terms of residential for people. the whole the entire shopping , district and market area of washington had moved. slowly the hotel , deteriorated in terms of good and services.
10:01 am
by the 1960's, it was necessary to close the hotel. marie: and when president john f. kennedy traveled, he decided there had to be improvements to pennsylvania avenue. he created the pennsylvania avenue development corporation. and he wanted pennsylvania avenue to once again be the avenue of everyone's dreams. the commission decided the willard hotel should be demolished and an open park space should be created. an auction was held. admission was one dollar. you are asked to bring chisels and hammers. the hotel was stripped of everything. if you could carry it, you could take it. in the lobby, you will see 48 tiles were removed. during the restoration, we were able to restore chandeliers were them. taken. the columns, they are not marble, they were destroyed.
10:02 am
the ballroom was stripped of its floor and we lost a lot of beautiful architecture in the hotel. after a 13 year battle, it was decided that indeed public affection had saved the hotel and it would now be a restoration. it was a three-year process to bring the hotel back to its grander. there is something special about the willard. it is an affection born not so much from the architecture, but from knowing that this is a place that has witnessed history being made and had wonderful people coming through. announcer: you can watch this and other programs by visiting our website at c-span.org/history. announcer: this weekend in american history tv on c-span3, tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on lectures in history, professor aaron bell talks about privacy
10:03 am
laws and federal surveillance of city -- civil rights leaders. >> here is the head of the operations, william sullivan, shortly after the march on washington, after the famous i have a dream speech, we must mark king now as the most dangerous negro in the future of this nation from the standpoint of communism and national security. announcer: sunday at 4:30 p.m., former members of congress and vietnam veterans reflect on lessons learned and ignored during the war. >> we learned the limits of military power during the the it now more. we learned it as a society and culture that you cannot kill in idea with a bullet. announcer: american history tv this weekend only on c-span3. each week, american history tv brings you archival films that provide context for today's public affairs issues.

4 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on